Friday, May 07, 2010

Hospital visiting

We're coming up to the national exams in Scotland, the time of year when all the students who have been coasting along, thinking of education as something that’s just poured into their brains, have suddenly decided to do lots of work. They then give it to me to mark. So I’ve been rather busy.

My deaf, confused aunt is still in hospital. Her hip is mending but she seems to have some problem with low blood pressure or possibly her heart. The hospital's about half an hour from here so the round trip takes up a goodly portion of the evening, which doesn’t help the marking. When I visited her yesterday, one of her hearing aids was missing and as I rooted around looking for it, a nice young doctor appeared. Because my son is also a nice young doctor, I smiled warmly at this one. The only snag about him was that he was foreign – maybe Greek or something? – and so even I had some difficulty understanding him. Auntie Jean clearly couldn’t hear a word, though he decently bent over her and shouted in her ear, which helped a bit.

He knew that she too is a doctor. Indeed she can still talk impressively about doctorish matters even though she can’t tell you what she had for her tea. So he addressed to her in medical terms, which I’m sure she would have appreciated if she could have heard him. And of course I, who could hear him, found the accent quite challenging and didn’t know what he was talking about anyway.

Auntie Jean: I’m going home tomorrow.

Nice young doctor: Well, we’re just going to do a JPD test on your haematitis to check for any peridot. [This isn’t what he said at all, of course, but he made sounds approximating to these words.]

Auntie Jean: Very nice, thank you.

Me: What’s a JPD test?

NYD: It’s a [something I couldn’t make out] to make sure that she [something else I couldn’t make out]. And a bit of oxymoron [or whatever].

AJ: I’m going home tomorrow.

NYD: [Loudly] No, not tomorrow. We need to get you checked out first for PRD.

AJ: Yes, and it's wise to make sure there's no ultrapulmonary fusion [or words to that effect].

NYD: [nodding] Yes.

Me: PRD?

NYD: Postural random dentifrice [or something] – her blood and [something I couldn’t make out].

Me: Oh.

AJ: Is it tomorrow I’m going home?

The three of us smiled bemusedly at each other and after a bit more, he moved on to the next patient. However, I really appreciated his attempts to communicate and felt sure that his mum would have been proud of him.


  1. Ha! We have communications fests similar to this one when we drop in to visit my father-in-law, who knows everything, and is as deaf as a door, but won't admit it.....

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  3. Sad in some fashion, but what a wonderful post. I feel much the same way when I try to talk to an acquaintance from Poland. Hers is one of the few accents which throws me. I frequently find myself seizing upon things which are probably inappropriate and enthusing about themL

    Her: "We have some trouble with something something something Great America."

    Me, concentrating on the words Great America, a local theme park, "Oh, that's wonderful! We like to go there."

    Her: Puzzled look.

  4. Brilliant. My husband is Irish and despite having been over here for 21 years (just over half his life) has a very strong accent. I frequently see people listening intently to him and then answer in a totally inappropriate way. Blank looks, puzzled smiles, confident laughter at non-jokes!


    It's a good job he's not a doctor though....

    Lesley x

  5. Poignantly hilarious. But you also vividly pinpoint something strange and important. We need doctors and other powerful professionals to give us clear information. But equally we need them to realise they need to, to pay us the respect of wanting to communicate. In the absence of the clear information, the respect and desire to communicate still made you feel better and reassured. When they don't care to communicate they damage their clients/patients twice over. The lack of concern that there has clearly been at any point to improve this doctor's English is a grave disservice to both him and his patients, isn't it? Sigh. The big issues. And the other big issues, like how hard it is when age strips a strong, skilled person like your aunt of so much. This scene you painted is going to sit in my mind for a long time.

  6. My brother is a doctor in the UK and has been learning Italian for many years. It has been a huge relief to many of his patients when they discover that he can communicate in their own language even if it is only to offer reassurance to their worried relatives.

  7. That mock conversation had me cracking up laughing, and the girls were looking as me as if perhaps I was as confused as your aunt. Great post!

  8. Ha ha ha!! I love this post too! Oh it is sad though...Ken's mum has excellent hearing without any hearing aid, but the people around her at the aged care hostel are mostly all deaf, and she says she feels so lonely, because when she talks to them they ignore her. She knows they aren't being rude, but even so...

  9. At least your Aunt Jean has hearing aids - it's a taboo subject in this house: though why people will happily use glasses to see but baulk at help to hear is beyond me. Apparently, according to husband and mother-in-law, I'm the one who doesn't speak clearly - on the other hand I'm not the one with the television turned up loud and unable to hear people on the telephone. I rest my case.

  10. Your poor aunt. It is so frustrating losing memory, concentration and hearing too. And when a strong foreign accent is added, how much worse - perhaps he could write down some of these things so she - and you - could read them, and refer to them.
    I hope you get through all the marking.

  11. Your medical terminology made me giggle.

  12. Oh dear, how sad and funny at the same time.

  13. Oh dear! Your "highly technical" terms made me laugh. Isn't it amazing how we think of our own children now, when we encounter someone who is in the same situation that they are? And how much more tolerant we are because of it?

  14. I have a similar tale I could tell, but won't because it is too long. I my case it was me speaking at the top of my voice to Aunt B trying to relate to her, her options, from the very dark skinned Doctor...just hours before she died. There was a curtain around the bed but I know full well everyone around heard every word I said.

    Hopefully they will find Auntie has a peridot and you get to keep it.